Come September or October of every year, people in Taiwan, both Taiwanese and foreign employees, are excited about one of the most important festival in Taiwan and all Chinese communities around the world – the Mooncake Festival. Why even foreigners are excited is because employers in Taiwan tradionally give out 1/2 month salary bonuses this time of the year, and, for eaters like me, endless array of mooncakes (more in this later).
This festival, I was told, is simply called Moon Festival in ancient times. How it evolved to be called Mooncake Festival is anyone’s guess. There is supposed to be many traditional activities done like viewing the moon, lighting lanterns both flying and floating (just search these up), and of course, eating mooncakes. Through the years, I surmise, of all the activities, there is one single activity anyone can surely do considering the limitations of the weather, and that is eating mooncakes. That, maybe, made the festival most popularly known as Mooncake Festival. That’s just my guess.
In my 15 years in Taiwan, I wasn’t able to view the moon or light a flying or floating lantern on the exact date of the festival. But I sure eat mooncakes everytime, no year missed!
This year, 2013, Mooncake Festival falls on Sept. 19, a full moon. If that day is cloudy, there’d be no moon-viewing. I don’t have any idea where to go light lanterns either. If I could just make one my own. So, yes, there’s one sure thing, the glorious mooncakes.
I seldom eat pastries but these are hard to resist.
Mooncakes are traditional pastries filled with thick lotus seed or other variations like red beans, mung beans, pineapple, or longan fruit, and, egg yolk. I was also told the traditional mooncake does not have egg yolk. Anyhow, in Taiwan, I seldom found mooncake without egg yolk.
Some mooncakes do not look very traditional, like the first picture above which obviously is made in some traditonal mold, understandably because of advancement in manufacturing, and businessmen always keen to entice consumers with new or different offerings. Compare the first picture above and the green one that looks like fruit down below this post. Typically though, only the “container” or outer skin varies. Inside is the same, fillings in any of the variations I wrote above. That’s as far as I know, and of course, in Taiwan: egg yolks.
That said, this is a time to be forgiving of one’s self of how much cholesterol you take in. If like me, I could eat 2 or 3 a day for a few days before and after the festival, it’d be more than a dozen egg yolks eaten in a week. Kinda scary, particularly to people with high cholesterol level. So you may just need to remove the yolks sometimes.
Fingers crossed, hopefully the skies will be clear on Thursday. I’d be on the rooftop, mooncakes and coffee on hand (should be tea according to tradition, but I’d prefer coffee on pastries), viewing the moon, pondering where my bonus has been *sigh*.
Here are snaps from a neigborhood pastry house: